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Healy Announces Massachusetts' First Recovery High School

Location: Beverly, MA


Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey today announced the Commonwealth's first recovery high school will open its doors this fall for students who are recovering from substance use disorders. The new high school is unique in that it is designed to help students in grades 9 through 12 who want to complete their education in a supportive and sober environment.

"Recovery high schools provide an opportunity for kids to continue their education in a place that is free from the social pressures that often lead to relapse," said Healey. "Offering this alternative will help students stay sober while they get the education and skills they need to lead a successful life."

The Lieutenant Governor said the majority of students who return to school from a substance abuse treatment program are offered drugs within twenty-four hours. Within 90 days, half of these students returned to drug use at equal or greater levels than prior to treatment.

Students returning from substance abuse programs often face significant challenges such as pressure from classmates and individuals who provide them with drugs. To avoid the social pressures, many students often drop out of school entirely, leading to increased rates of risky behavior and involvement with the criminal justice system.

"Having this very real illness sets these youth apart from other groups of high-risk students for whom other specialized programs have been developed," said former Salem Superintendent of Schools Herb Levine. "Many students who have gone through a treatment experience and are attempting to maintain their recovery report feeling different from their peers and extremely isolated in their traditional school environment."

"Unfortunately, we continue to see children who are addicted go through the spin cycle of detox-rehab-release-re-use and it must stop," said Senator Steven Tolman, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. "Recovery high schools will provide a safe and supportive environment to break this vicious cycle and, more importantly, it will help keep these kids in treatment and recovery. We all know that the longer you stay in treatment the better chance you have for recovery."

The Beverly recovery high school will be administered by the Northshore Education Consortium, an organization comprised of 17 school districts. The education consortium was awarded $1.5 million from the state over the next five years, including $500,000 the first year to pay for start-up costs and $250,000 in subsequent years. The group, selected for its experience in providing educational services to at-risk youth, is leasing an unused middle school from the city of Beverly.

"The seventeen communities who make up the consortium are thrilled to be involved in this project and to have the opportunity to help young people regain their lives and continue their education," said Robert Gass, Northshore Education Consortium Director.

The Beverly recovery high school, expected to open in September, will be comprised of one principal, four teachers, one full-time counselor, a part-time art teacher and a part-time nurse to educate 35 to 50 students. The teachers will be dually certified to meet all education standards set by the Department of Education, including course requirements and MCAS testing. The program operates similar to a charter school reimbursement plan, where participating cities are responsible for the per pupil costs associated with educating students who attend Beverly's recovery high school.

Officials are planning an outreach effort to help identify candidates for admission, including both residential and outpatient adolescent treatment providers, public schools, juvenile courts as well as the Department of Youth Services and the Department of Social Services.

The opening of the Beverly recovery high school is the latest step in the implementation of the Substance Abuse Strategic Plan, a strategic blueprint for the prevention, intervention and treatment of substance abuse in the Commonwealth. The plan was released by Healey one year ago and identified several areas of strategic investment of which these schools are the latest.

Plans are currently underway for the development of two additional schools in Western Massachusetts and Boston.

Healey added, "We are committed to addressing this issue and know these schools will dramatically change the lives of the students involved."

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